A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:26 pm

It's been several years since I had a winter ride on the Canadian and IMHO……the best time to ride! The crowds are gone and there’s lots of room to just sit back in the dome and watch the snowy winter landscape go by from the warm and cozy train.

With some vacation time coming due I started watching for deals on VIA. The best fare I could find for a Cabin for 1 from Toronto to Vancouver in early December was $1200…...but I still had a couple of weeks before I had to book so thought I'd wait and see if anything better would come along.....and it did!

A Cabin for one had dropped to $800 but for that $1200 I was going to spend anyway….. I could now have single occupancy of a Cabin for 2 (Bedroom) Much more comfortable for the 4 night trip and when I did the on-line booking I got Bedroom D in car #139....the Park Car and the centre of everything!

Now to get to Toronto from Halifax: I didn’t have enough vacation time to start out from Halifax on VIA's Ocean so I settled for a quick two hour flight on a WestJet '737.

I was at the airport at 4:45am for my flight at 5:45 AT. It was a clear, cold, cloudless early morning. The route took us over Saint John, NB then basically followed above the old VIA Atlantic route across Maine. By a quirk of border geography, flights between the Maritimes and central Canada overfly about 200 miles of the USA, re-entering Canadian airspace just north of Lac Magnetic, Quebec. I had a window seat and a great view of the city lights of Montreal, Ottawa then on into Toronto at 7:30 ET.

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/WJA2 ... /CYHZ/CYYZ

Image

I’d be spending the day in Toronto before the Canadian’s departure that evening at 10pm so I picked up a TTC Daypass and besides getting me downtown via bus and subway it allowed me unlimited rides for the day including the extensive street-car system. I also did some GO Train riding out to Milton and back:

Image


And what wouldn’t be the start to a Transcontinental rail journey without a visit to the Royal York…. a classic former Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel. I had dinner there and sat in the nicely decorated lobby for awhile before heading across the street to Union Station through a maze of construction. (Union is undergoing a $700 million restoration)

Image
Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:28 pm

I did a bit more GO Train riding then checked in for the Canadian at VIA’s First Class Panorama Lounge around 8:30 pm. It was already starting to fill……we were going to have a good number aboard tonight! There’s coffee, juice, newspapers and free Wi-Fi available while you wait.

About 9:30 the train was announced and I headed up to track level where I grabbed a shot of the Park Car trailing the gleaming stainless-steel consist before settling into my double bedroom in Revelstoke Park……..Then it was up into the dome for departure at 10pm with a champagne and hors-d’oeuvre reception!

Image
Image
Image

We looped around the west and north sides of the city via the Newmarket and York Subdivisions before gaining CN’s Transcontinental mainline at Doncaster. After Richmond Hill, the city lights were left behind and it was time for bed. I missed the directional running on CP that occurred through the night and didn’t hear a thing until we stopped in Sudbury early the next morning.

Breakfast was first come-first served at 6:30am and I had an omelet, hash browns, toast and coffee and watched as we arrived in Capreol for a half hour servicing stop.

The roads end at Capreol then it was off into the wilds of Northern Ontario……a 1400 km stretch and 24 hours to the Manitoba border. There’s only the occasional stop at an isolated First Nation community or a town that grew from an old steam era railroad servicing point. Here’s Foleyet with the old coaling tower still standing.

Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:29 pm

Image

Occasionally the train will be met by a snowmobile at a milepost seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Someone will be getting on or off or picking up supplies from the baggage car. Yes the Canadian sill serves an essential service to these isolated points!

I had picked up a thick weekend paper before leaving Toronto and it was nice to just sit back, read and enjoy a coffee (or a muffin or fruit from the supply that’s always out in the Park Car)…….. and watch the snow, trees and frozen lakes roll by.

Something else I was watching too was the constant meets with CN Freights…..and usually with us taking the siding. There is certainly lots of slack built into the schedule……being late at one point then ontime at the next.

Second call to lunch came at 1pm and I had the garden vegetable soup, BBQ Chicken wrap and strawberry shortcake.

In mid-afternoon we rolled into Hornepayne for servicing with about 20 minutes to get off and walk around. This gave me an opportunity to record the consist:

6438 F40
6439 F40
8604 Baggage
8116 Coach
8125 Coach
Skyline Dome 8503
Empress Diner
Amherst Manor
Burton Manor
Bayfield Manor
Thompson manor
Revelstoke Park Dome Observation

Image
Image

Second call to dinner came at 7pm and I had soup, salad, stuffed chicken breast and cheesecake for desert. Meals are excellent and the service…… top notch!

Morning two and I’m awake early.....we’re now on Central Time, out of the woods and now on the flat prairie heading for an OT arrival into Winnipeg at 8am. We have a 4 hour stopover here and it goes something like this: Between 8 and 10am, you can get off and on the train and come and go as you please and the diner continues to serve breakfast. From 10 until 11:30 the platform is closed while the train is serviced then re-boarding begins at 11:30. For any passengers interested, there’s a booth set up in the concourse offering a bus tour of the city for $30. I hop aboard and it’s well worth it......easily occupying 3 of the 4 hour stopover. We visit the historic “Forks” district…..named for the fork in the river and the location of the former CN shops (now galleries, stores and restaurants) and also have a tour of the beautiful Manitoba Legislature Building.

Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:31 pm

Image

Back at the station now and before boarding……there’s still time to look around and see its domed rotunda:

Image
Image
Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:32 pm

There’s a complete crew change at Winnipeg and shortly after we depart OT at noon…..lunch is served. After all are seated, Daniel the new steward blows a VIA souvenir whistle to get everyone’s attention then introduces himself and the new crew……even the chef sticks his head out of the kitchen! Lunch is soup, an open face hot turkey sandwich with apple crumble for desert.

I spent the afternoon in the dome watching signals change as we continue to meet freights. West of Rivers, Manitoba……we start climbing up to the second prairie level high above a valley, then cross into Saskatchewan and race for Melville at 80+ MPH on the straight track of CN’s former Grand Trunk Pacific mainline.

Image
Image


Marilyn, our new Park Car Attendant (and one of VIA’s Best!) conducts a Wine Tasting featuring Canadian Wines up in the Dome.

Image


…..And another fine meal that evening: soup, salad, pasta and carrot cake, coffee and conversation for desert. I found that the steward seemed to have a knack for placing like people together at diner and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Back in my room, I sat in the dark and watched the Christmas lights as we passed through the small prairie towns. I tried to stay awake for Saskatoon but was long asleep before our midnight arrival.

Day three now and heading for Edmonton. It’s snowing, -20C and we’re 2 hours late.....not due to the weather but the constant meets with CN freights! We were only 1 hr late at the Sask/Alberta border but have lost another hour approaching Edmonton. It’s a city of a million with the rush-hour traffic along the Yellowhead Freeway we’re paralleling almost at a standstill in the snowstorm (…boy I’m glad I’m on the train!)

Meals on the third day are handled a bit different to allow for the early AM arrival in Edmonton and the 2 hour afternoon stop in Jasper. Instead of a full hot breakfast...... only a continental is served in the Diner or you can enjoy warm muffins and pastries in the Park Car along with juice and coffee.......then mid-morning a hot Brunch is served in the diner. It’s a nice change and besides I’ve been eating too much anyway.

Image

Arrival in Edmonton is at 8:30 and there are two coaches waiting for us to pick up. They had been used on a CN Employees Christmas Train and were being returned to Vancouver. I get off for awhile to use the free wi-fi in the station. It’s quite busy and not just tourists……we’ve had oil-sands workers aboard who are now making bus connections to Fort McMurray......and we also pick up passengers heading overnight to Vancouver.

Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:33 pm

Image
Image

By the time the coaches are added, we’re now 3 hour late out of Edmonton and at 11am I go to Brunch: It starts off with a Mimosa (Orange Juice & Champagne) then I have a Bacon and Cheese omelet…… and since it brunch,.desert is also served: a fruit cocktail (I could have had chocolate cheesecake!)

It turns out a sunny afternoon now but very cold. Just beyond Edson, the mountains come into view. We`re still holding 3 hours late and this is going to cut into the Jasper stopover where you can get off and walk around the resort town......also the daylight mountain viewing beyond. There`s a couple more freight meets and we arrive just after 4pm but there’s still plenty of time to get off as the train is serviced including washing windows!

Image
Image
Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:34 pm

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:35 pm

Image
Image
Image

I jokingly say to the attendant that too bad we’re so late……with the clean windows now we won’t be able to enjoy the mountains. But he says that with a fresh snow fall and a bright evening, the view from the dome after dark is going to be just as nice and indeed it was!

We’ve got a full load out of Jasper tonight and Marilyn offers another champagne and hors-d’oeuvre reception up in the Dome. There will also be three dinner seatings and I go for the second at 7pm. With it being the last night aboard, I’ve saved the best for last….the Prime Rib along with Onion Soup, Garden Salad and Chocolate Mousse for desert. Again I’m sitting with ordinary Canadians, not tourists, using the train for basic transportation. They’re from Kamloops and have made a round-trip to Edmonton instead of the treacherous winter drive along the Yellowhead Highway.

VIA has a program for professional entertainers to ride the train and perform (Sing for your Supper!.......From VIA’s Web Page : “VIA Rail's Artists on board Program offers complimentary or reduced fare travel for approved professional musicians in return for performing on board the Montreal-Halifax and/or Toronto-Vancouver trains”)…… and they provided a very enjoyable evening in the Park Car!

Image

Wednesday morning now and I woke early as we were threading our way down the Fraser River Canyon……still dark but you could watch the headlight playing on the steep rock walls. This is directional running territory with all westbound traffic taking CN and all eastbounds on CP. As I went for breakfast, the sun was just coming up and we were now rolling through the Fraser Valley heading for an early arrival in Vancouver. And in the Diner there was no rushing you by the crew to finish up so they could prepare for arrival. We’re soon across the Fraser River Bridge at New Westminster and heading downtown on the former BNSF mainline. We stop for a moment then back in for a half hour early arrival at 9:15am in Pacific Central Station. It’s been a great trip!

Image
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:37 pm

Image

I spent the next few days visiting and doing a little touring then on Sunday afternoon it was time to head for home: An Air Canada A320 to Toronto with a connection there onto Halifax. And an interesting flight too that I’m going say took an “Empire Builder – North Coast Limited – Olympian Hiawatha” routing across the western US: Just off the end of runway 08R at YVR we turned and crossed the BC/Washington State Border....... then routed over Spokane (photo below) Missoula, Billings, Aberdeen SD.....south of Minneapolis, Green Bay WI, across Michigan and on into Toronto. I had a window seat with a great view all the way across the continent.

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/ACA1 ... /CYVR/CYYZ

Image
Image
Image

After a quick connection.......it was onto Halifax on another A320. From wheels up in Vancouver to wheels down in Halifax...... with the stop in Toronto: 7 hrs and 10 minutes vs the 4 1\2 days by train. As much as I enjoyed the flight back, I think I’ll take the Canadian anyday......and I’m ready to go again!
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby David Benton » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:14 pm

Thanks for the great trip report and photos.
I think if I was ever to return to ride the Canadian, I would do it in winter too.
$ 700 million to rebuild Toronto Station, that's some Makeover.
Moderator worldwide railfan , Rail travel & trip reports
The only train trips I regret are the ones I didn't take.
User avatar
David Benton
 
Posts: 7809
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 11:29 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby NS VIA FAN » Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:58 pm

David Benton wrote:........
$ 700 million to rebuild Toronto Station, that's some Makeover.

One of the big features of the station revitalization is the day-lighting of the trainshed with a huge translucent roof. Watch the video here:

http://www.gotransit.com/UnionStation/en/default.aspx

They're also excavating under the station to construct new concourses and a shopping/restaurant level.

There will also be an adjacent station construction to serve the new airport express trains.

http://www.upexpress.com/en/project/pro ... x#stations
User avatar
NS VIA FAN
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:51 am

Re: A Winter Ride On VIA’s Canadian (with photos)

Postby ohioriverrailway » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:29 am

Nice pictures and thanks for sharing. We rode Vancouver -> Toronto a couple of years ago with a stop-over in Winterpeg -- and I'd love to do it again.
Rick H.
ohioriverrailway
 
Posts: 236
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:58 pm


Return to Travel & Trip Reports

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest